BY JEFF FALK
HERSHEY – The outcome was decided. The war had been lost.
But they kept calling timeouts, the coaches continued to coach and the sidelines kept urging on the combatants. Why?
The reasons went beyond simple modeling. It was a way for the coaching staff to pay back players for the effort with which they had been presented.
On a crisp Thursday night at Milton Hershey School’s Henry Hershey Field, the Palmyra football Cougars gave it their all, and then some, during a 45-30 setback to a group of athletic Spartans. Milton Hershey opened a 45-15 bulge early in the final quarter, before Palmyra’s never-say-die approach produced the contest’s final 15 points.
The Spartans rolled up 302 yards of offense in the first half and out gained the Cougars 488 total yards to 313. For Palmyra, junior running back Nick Wallaesa rushed 21 times for 94 yards.
The result dropped Palmyra to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Capital Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Milton Hershey advanced to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the Capital Division.
“We talked about the effort needed,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope of the post-game address to his players. “This (Milton Hershey) is a good football team. But on any given Friday, anybody can win. We could’ve done somethings better, but I was proud of the effort. We coached and played to the very last snap. That’s all you can do.
“It’s something I hope our program resonates,” continued Pope. “When we come, we want to compete. I was really proud of the effort tonight. I really was. I’m not happy about losing. But there’s something to be said for how you play.”
Facing an insurmountable deficit, the Cougars got a 31-yard touchdown run out of Wallaesa 1:50 into the fourth quarter. Three minutes later, senior quarterback Stephen Lyons’ two-yard touchdown toss to receiver Nick Morder pulled Palmyra to within 45-27 of the lead.
The Cougars’ final score of the game came in the form of Matt Hines’ 32-yard field goal.
“I was happy with the way the offense played,” said Pope. “We talk a lot about enthusiasm. We talk about energy, just being able to execute. When you do that, you’re building momentum.
“There are areas where we’ve improved,” continued Pope. “Some are intangible things. I thought we took a step forward at Steel-High (a 36-22 loss on September 27th).”
Milton Hershey tallied the first three touchdowns of the game and opened a 19-0 advantage, 4:04 into the second period on quarterback Tigere Mauvesere’s 29-yard touchdown jaunt. The Cougars responded with a 14-yard, fourth-down scoring collaboration between Lyons and Drew Chapin late in the second quarter.
But the Spartans scored again, 31 seconds before halftime, on a 79-yard touchdown strike from Mauversere to Josh Para, to take a 25-7 lead to the intermission.
“They have some athletic kids,” said Pope of the Spartans. “Their quarterback is very shifty. Their wide receiver (Para) is rangy and very good. It was hard to defend him. And number 26 (running back Dion Bryant) has legit speed.”
Milton Hershey turned the second-half kickoff into a 26-yard touchdown scamper by Bryant and a 32-7 advantage. But Palmyra pulled to within 32-15 of the Spartans on its next possession, on a short Wallaesa TD run and Lyons’ two-point conversion.
“We’re going to work on winning the last two games,” said Pope. “This game is a little representative of the way the last two games need to be. We’re going to get after it at practice. We’re not going to quit.
“In the end, if we can maximize our potential, that’s something,” added Pope. “I’m not really quite sure yet (if the season has been a success). I feel better and the players feel better when we play to our potential.”
Lyons finished the game 15 for 38 for 170 yards passing. Senior Kasey Shughart caught six of those passes for 77 yards.
For the Spartans, Mauvesere carried 14 times for 150 rushing yards. Some 249 of Milton Hershey’s total yards came on the ground.
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2019 Palmyra Football Results
|8/237:00p||@ Hershey (Hershey, PA)Location: Hershey High School||(L) 32 – 27|
|8/307:00p||@ Mechanicsburg (Mechanicsburg, PA)Location: Mechanicsburg High School||(L) 42 – 0|
|9/67:00p||Garden Spot (New Holland, PA)Location: Palmyra High School||(W) 34 – 20|
|9/137:00p||@ East Pennsboro (Enola, PA)Location: East Pennsboro High School||(L) 24 – 0|
|9/20TBA||@ Camp Hill (Camp Hill, PA)Location: Camp Hill High School||(W) 21 – 19|
|9/27TBA||@ Steelton-Highspire (Steelton, PA)Location: Steelton-Highspire High School||(L) 36 – 22|
|10/4TBA||Boiling Springs (Boiling Springs, PA)Location: Palmyra High School||(W) 14 – 7|
|10/117:00p||@ Milton Hershey (Hershey, PA)Location: Milton Hershey High School|
|10/187:00p||Trinity (Camp Hill, PA)Location: Palmyra High School|
|10/257:00p||Middletown (Middletown, PA)Location: Palmyra High School|